Past Forward

Activating The Henry Ford Archive of Innovation


Launching today from The Henry Ford, Innovate Curriculum helps students connect core subjects like STEAM, social studies and English to real-world applications through an interdisciplinary, hands-on online curriculum that accelerates 21st century skills development.

Innovate Curriculum leverages primary sources of The Henry Ford Archive of American Innovation, an unparalleled collection of 26 million artifacts that sheds light on the way people have innovated across 300 years of history.

Learn more and register for a chance to win a free year of Innovate for your classroom here.

Innovate

Greenfield Village’s historic buildings were not Henry Ford’s first preservation effort.  Ford’s restoration of his own childhood home in 1919 set him on a preservation path.  And it was just the beginning.  Soon Ford began to restore other buildings. 

In 1919, Henry Ford contemplated the importance of his own birthplace when a road improvement project required the farmhouse be either moved 200 yards from its original location or be torn down.

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Henry Ford birthplace after it was moved 200 yards and restored, 1923. THF255378

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Ford on the porch of his restored childhood home in 1923
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Ford decided to move the house and restore it to the way it looked at the time of his mother’s death in 1876, when he was 13 years old. For Ford, the project was personal--he took charge of the birthplace restoration, meticulously re-creating the details of the house.   

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Ford’s assistants placed this advertisement in the Detroit News in the fall of 1922
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After an 18th-month-long search, a Starlight stove like the one Ford remembered from childhood took its place in the restored Ford birthplace.
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Ford worked hard to find original or similar furnishings. For 18 months, he searched for a Starlight stove like the one in the dining room when he was growing up.  Ford’s staff contacted stove manufacturers and dealers and used the network of Ford Motor Company branch offices and automobile dealers to comb the country. When nothing turned up, his staff even placed advertisements in Detroit newspapers--though not revealing that it was Henry Ford who wanted the stove. After a nationwide search, Ford’s desire for a Starlight No. 25 was satisfied at last. He found one in a small Michigan town, paying $25 for it. Piece by piece, Henry Ford was re-creating his childhood home as he remembered it.

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Sunday parlor in Henry Ford birthplace
, 1923. THF96899

When the restoration of Ford’s childhood home was complete, people were awestruck by its authenticity. It seemed remarkable to him, and others, how a re-created environment could catapult one into another time and place.

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Scotch Settlement School, Dearborn, Michigan, 1926
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In 1923, Ford bought and preserved the red brick Scotch Settlement School he had attended as a child.  Henry Ford kept the building on its original site while he supervised every detail of its restoration.

Henry Ford’s restoration of his birthplace had received extensive press coverage.  Not surprisingly, Americans deluged the wealthy man with pleas of assistance for preservation projects of their own.  Although Ford turned down most requests for assistance, a few caught his fancy.

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The Wayside Inn in the mid-1920s, after its restoration
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Henry and Clara Ford periodically visited the Wayside Inn, whose doors had been opened to the public.  By 1927, however, Henry’s attention increasingly turned to his plans for his historical village and museum in Dearborn.
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Ford agreed to assist in the restoration of the 1686 Wayside Inn in Sudbury, Massachusetts, west of Boston. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow had made the inn famous in his Tales of a Wayside Inn. The author’s “Psalm of Life,” read by Ford in the McGuffey Readers of his youth, was among the industrialist’s favorite inspirational verses.  Ford purchased the inn for $65,000, restoring and furnishing it at significant expense.  He bought up much surrounding land and even diverted the Boston Post Road to keep automobile traffic from ruining the bucolic setting.

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Presentation Drawing, "Proposed Development of a Colonial Village of South Sudbury, Massachusetts," 1926
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Ford clearly contemplated even grander plans for the Wayside Inn and its surrounding property.  A “Proposed Development of a Colonial Village of South Sudbury, Massachusetts…done at the Lowthorpe School of Landscape Architecture” in 1926 shows a “village” composed of the Wayside Inn, houses, a church, a mill, and other buildings.  Although the plan was never realized, Ford may have been working out ideas that were later revealed in Greenfield Village.

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Botsford Inn in Farmington, Michigan, 1925.  THF108707

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Musicians’ Stage in Botsford ballroom, 1925
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Closer to home, Ford refurbished the old Botsford Inn on Grand River Avenue in Farmington, Michigan, in 1924. The inn had once served 19th-century travelers en route from Detroit to Lansing. Ford’s staff sought out old-timers who remembered the inn in its heyday and used their recollections to help furnish the place. Ford added a maple floor to the ballroom and, for a while, held old-fashioned dances there.

Ford had turned down a request for funds to restore Williamsburg, the colonial-era Virginia capital. He was more interested in creating his own village closer to home, which would include buildings from different time periods and places. In 1927, Ford began to gather buildings for what would become Greenfield Village.

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Scotch Settlement School being reconstructed in Greenfield Village
, 1929. THF138711

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Ford birthplace being moved to Greenfield Village, 1944
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Two of Ford’s early preservation projects would find their way into Greenfield Village.  During the summer of 1929, Scotch Settlement School was dismantled and moved as Ford’s historical village began to take shape.  Ford’s birthplace would be the last building moved to the village during his lifetime.  By the 1940s, the city of Dearborn was growing up around the Ford family homestead, and the house required 24-hour security protection.  In January 1944, the home was cut in two and hauled by truck a few miles from the Dearborn farmstead to its new location in Greenfield Village.

Excerpted from Telling America’s Story:  A History of The Henry Ford, 2019; compiled by Jeanine Head Miller, Curator of Domestic Life at The Henry Ford.

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A scene from the 1940 motion picture, “Young Tom Edison,” starring Mickey Rooney. THF125222

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Spencer Tracy portrayed the inventor in the film, “Edison the Man,” released later that same year. THF58062

Thomas Alva Edison is an American “superhero.” It is not surprising, then, that his life story found its way into the movies during Hollywood’s golden age. It is, in fact, quite fitting, since Edison and an associate were instrumental in the development of early movie technology in the 1890s.

In 1940, Edison was the subject of not one, but two, Hollywood films: “Young Tom Edison,” starring Mickey Rooney, and “Edison the Man,” starring Spencer Tracy. These classic motion pictures were filmed in California. But Henry Ford’s well-known collection of Edison-related buildings and artifacts in Dearborn played a supporting role in MGM’s research for script development and set design.

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To help prepare for their roles, MGM wanted the actors playing Thomas Edison to visit the Museum and Village to learn more about Edison. Here, Mickey Rooney records his voice on an early Edison tinfoil phonograph. THF125217

In February 1939, MGM scriptwriters Dore Schary and Hugo Butler came to Greenfield Village to see the Menlo Park Laboratory and the Edison-related artifacts in the Museum. (Schary and Butler later received an Academy Award nomination for their script for “Edison the Man.”) MGM also wanted the actors playing Thomas Edison in the films to be inspired by their own visits to Dearborn. Rooney arrived on October 23, 1939, just before filming of “Young Tom Edison” began in Hollywood. Tracy came a few days later.

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A few weeks after his visit, Spencer Tracy wrote this letter of appreciation to Henry Ford. THF125214

Tracy was deeply impressed by his visit and wrote a letter to Henry Ford, “I am unable to find words to adequately express the deep and lasting imprint my short visit has made upon me…I shall make a supreme effort to do some small justice and no harm to the memory of your dear friend.”

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Henry Ford lent an 1850s locomotive and some railroad cars from his museum for the publicity train that carried special guests from Detroit to Port Huron for the February 1940 premiere of “Young Tom Edison.” THF96236, THF96230

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As the train rolled along from Detroit to Port Huron, Mickey Rooney hawked candy and newspapers to the passengers, just as Edison had done as a boy years before. Here, Rooney offers Edison’s widow, Mina Miller Edison Hughes, a newspaper. THF119959

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As the special train arrived in Port Huron, fans rushed to greet Mickey Rooney. THF119966

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Souvenir from “Young Tom Edison” February 1940 movie premiere. THF96232

Filming began on “Young Tom Edison” in early November 1939. By Christmas, it was complete, and MGM was planning for the film’s February 10, 1940, premiere in Port Huron, Michigan, where Edison had grown up. The festivities included a train ride from Detroit to Port Huron--the same route traveled by Edison in his youth when he sold candy and newspapers on the Grand Trunk railroad. Artifacts from the Museum added authenticity. Henry Ford loaned the 1858 “Sam Hill” steam locomotive and some train cars for the trip. Among the passengers were the film’s star, Mickey Rooney; Edsel Ford; Thomas Edison’s widow, Mina Miller Edison Hughes; and MGM studio executive Louis B. Mayer. In evening, “Young Tom Edison” premiered at three Port Huron theaters, with Rooney appearing at each.

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Henry Ford shows Spencer Tracy around the Menlo Park Lab in Greenfield Village during Tracy’s October 1939 visit. THF123498

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With the help of photographs and other documentation provided by Greenfield Village staff, MGM built an impressive full-sized version of the Menlo Park laboratory in California for “Edison the Man.” The movie set looked astonishingly like its Greenfield Village counterpart! THF125210

In mid-January 1940, filming began on “Edison the Man.” With the help of photographs and other documentation provided by Greenfield Village staff, MGM built an impressive full-sized version of the Menlo Park Laboratory, with its equipment, furnishings, and rows of bottles on the shelves. The movie set looked astonishingly like its Greenfield Village counterpart.

During the filming, Henry Ford put William Simonds on loan to MGM as a technical assistant. Simonds, a public relations manager for the Village and Museum, had published an Edison biography five years before. During the two-month filming of “Edison the Man” at MGM, Simonds reported back regularly. His letters provide an engaging behind-the-scenes look at the making of this classic Hollywood film.

Simonds told how Rita Johnson’s nervousness at playing her first big role--as Edison’s wife Mary--forced extra takes to complete some scenes. In one instance, Tracy ate five pieces of apple pie during numerous retakes of a scene. Simonds humorously described director Clarence Brown facing a long line of mothers and crying babies to choose an infant to play Edison’s child. He revealed how the stage crew had to scramble to repair the damage when part of the Menlo Park Laboratory set fell over, breaking many of the “chemical” bottles and spilling colored water all over the floor.

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The model was sent to Henry Ford as a keepsake. Art director Cedric Gibbons, director Clarence Brown, cinematographer Harold Rosson, and the film’s stars Spencer Tracy and Rita Johnson signed it. THF49762

Filming of “Edison the Man” wrapped up in mid-March 1940 and it premiered May 16, 1940. There had been talk of holding its premiere in Dearborn, but, at the request of Edison’s son Charles, the film premiered in West Orange, New Jersey, where Edison developed many of his later inventions.

Jeanine Head Miller is Curator of Domestic Life at The Henry Ford.

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Robert O. Derrick, about 1930. THF 124645


As part of our 90th anniversary celebration the intriguing story of the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation’s design bears repeating. It was last discussed in depth in the 50th anniversary publication “A Home for our Heritage” (1979).

Our tale begins on the luxury ocean liner R.M.S. Majestic, then the largest in the world, on its way to Europe in the spring of 1928. On board were Henry and Clara Ford, their son Edsel and Edsel’s wife Eleanor. Serendipitously, Detroit-based architect Robert O. Derrick and his wife, Clara Hodges Derrick, were also on board. The Derricks were approximately the same age as the Edsel Fords and the two couples were well-acquainted. According to Derrick’s reminiscence, housed in the Benson Ford Research Center, he was invited by Henry Ford to a meeting in the senior Fords’ cabin, which was undoubtedly arranged by Edsel Ford. During the meeting Derrick recalled that Mr. Ford asked how he would hypothetically design his museum of Americana. Derrick responded, “well, I’ll tell you, Mr. Ford, the first thing I could think of would be if you could get permission for me to make a copy of Independence Hall in Philadelphia. It is a wonderful building and beautiful architecture and it certainly would be appropriate for a collection of Americana.” Ford enthusiastically approved the concept and once back in Detroit, secured measured drawings of Independence Hall and its adjacent 18th century buildings which comprise the façade of the proposed museum. Both Derrick and Ford agreed to flip the façade of Independence Hall to make the clock tower, located at the back side of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, a focal point of the front of the new museum in Dearborn.

Robert Ovens Derrick (1890-1961) was an unlikely candidate for the commission. He was a young architect, trained at Yale and Columbia Universities, with only three public buildings to his credit, all in the Detroit area. He was interested in 18th century Georgian architecture and the related Colonial Revival styles, which were at the peak of their popularity in the 1920s.

In his reminiscence, he states that he was overwhelmed with the commission, but was also confident in his abilities: “I did visit a great many industrial and historical museums and went to Chicago. I remember that I studied the one abroad in Germany, [The Deutsches Museum in Munich] which is supposed to be one of the best. I studied them all very carefully and I did make some very beautiful plans, I thought. Of course, I was going according to museum customs. We had a full basement and a balcony going around so the thing wouldn’t spread out so far. We had a lot of exhibits go in the balcony. I had learned that, in museum practice, you should have a lot more storage space, maintenance space and repair shops than you should have for exhibition. That is why I had the big basement. I didn’t even get enough there because I had the floor over it plus the balconies all around.”

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Original museum proposal, aerial view. THF 170442

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Original museum proposal, facade design. THF 170443

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Original museum proposal, side view. THF 170444

In the aerial view [THF0442], the two-story structure is a warren of courtyards and two-story buildings, with exhibition space on the first floor and presumably balconies above, although no interior views of this version survive. A domed area on the upper right was to be a roundhouse, intended for the display of trains. THF0443 shows a view of the front of the museum from the southeast corner. This view is close to the form of the completed museum, at least from the front. An examination of the side of the building [THF0444] shows a two-storied wing.

Derrick recalled Mr. Ford’s initial response to his proposals, “What’s this up here? and I said, that is a balcony for exhibits. He said, I wouldn’t have that; there would be people up there, I could come in and they wouldn’t be working. I wouldn’t have it. I have to see everybody. Then he said: What’s this? I said, that is the basement down there, which is necessary to maintain these exhibits and to keep things which you want to rotate, etc. He said, I wouldn’t have that; I couldn’t see the men down there when I came in. You have to do the whole thing over again and put it all on one floor with no balconies and no basements. I said, okay, and I went back and we started all over again. What you see [today] is what we did the second time.”

thf294368Henry Ford Museum proposed Exhibit Hall. THF294368

A second group of presentation drawings show the museum as it was built in 1929. THF294368 is the interior of the large “Machine Hall,” the all-on-one-floor exhibit space that Mr. Ford requested.  The unique roof and skylight system echo that of Albert Kahn’s Ford Engineering Laboratory, completed in 1923 and located just behind the museum. Radiant heating is located in the support columns through what appear to be large flanges or fins. The image also shows how Mr. Ford wanted his collection displayed – in long rows, by types of objects – as seen here with the wagons on the left and steam engines on the right.

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Proposal for museum corridor. THF 294390

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Proposal for museum corridor. THF 294388

These corridors, known today as the Prechter Promenade, run the width of the museum. Floored with marble and decorated with elaborate plasterwork, the promenade is the first part of the interior seen by guests. Mr. Ford wanted all visitors to enter through his reproduction of the Independence Hall Clock Tower. The location of Light’s Golden Jubilee, a dinner and celebration of the 50th anniversary of Thomas Edison’s development of incandescent electric lamp, held on October 21, 1929 is visible at the back of THF294388. This event also served as the official dedication of the Edison Institute of Technology, honoring Ford’s friend and mentor, Thomas Edison. Today the entire institution is known as The Henry Ford, which includes the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation and Greenfield Village.

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Museum Auditorium. THF 294370

Just off the Prechter Promenade is the auditorium, now known as the Anderson Theater.  Intended to present historical plays and events, this theater accommodates approximately 600 guests. During Mr. Ford’s time it was also used by the Greenfield Village schools for recitals, plays, and graduations. Today, it is used by the Henry Ford Academy, a Wayne County charter high school, and the museum for major public programs.

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Virginia Courtyard inside Henry Ford Museum. THF294374  

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Pennsylvania Courtyard inside Henry Ford Museum. THF294392

Derrick created two often-overlooked exterior courtyards between the Prechter Promenade and the museum exhibit hall. Each contains unique garden structures, decorative trees and plantings, and both are accessible to the public from neighboring galleries.

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Greenfield Village Gatehouse front view, about 1931. THF 294382

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Greenfield Village Gatehouse rear view, about 1931. THF 294386

The Greenfield Village Gatehouse was completed in 1932 by Robert Derrick, in a Colonial Revival style to complement the Museum. From its opening in 1932 until the Greenfield Village renovation of 2003, the gatehouse served as the public entrance to the Village. Today, visitors enter the Village through the Josephine Ford Plaza behind the Gatehouse.  Although the exterior was left unchanged in the renovation, the Gatehouse now accommodates guests with an updated facility, including new, accessible restrooms and a concierge lounge with a will-call desk for tickets.

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Lovett Hall in 1941. THF 98409

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Edison Institute students dancing in Lovett Ballroom, 1938. THF 121724

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Edison Institute students in dancing class with Benjamin Lovett, instructor, 1944. THF 116450

In 1936 Robert Derrick designed the Education Building for Mr. Ford.  Now known as Lovett Hall, the building served many purposes, mainly for the Greenfield Village School system. It housed a swimming pool, gymnasium, classrooms, and an elaborately-decorated ballroom, where young ladies and gentlemen were taught proper “deportment.” Like all the buildings at The Henry Ford, it was executed in the Colonial Revival style. Today the well-preserved ballroom serves as a venue for weddings and other special occasions.

Obviously, Mr. Derrick was a favorite architect of Mr. Ford along with the renowned Albert Kahn, who designed the Ford Rouge Factory. The museum was undoubtedly Derrick’s greatest achievement, although he went on to design Detroit’s Theodore J. Levin Federal Courthouse in 1934. Unlike the Henry Ford commissions, the courthouse was designed in the popular Art Deco, or Art Moderne style. Derrick is also noted for many revival style homes in suburban Grosse Pointe, which he continued to design until his retirement in 1956. He is remembered as one of the most competent, and one of the many creative architects to practice in 20th century Detroit.

Charles Sable is Curator of Decorative Arts at The Henry Ford.

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Nighttime Lighting Rehearsal at Henry Ford Museum, Preparing for Light's Golden Jubilee, October 18, 1929. 
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Invitation to Light's Golden Jubilee Celebration and Edison Institute Dedication, Dearborn, Michigan, 1929. THF9173

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"Light's Golden Jubilee" Reception Badge, 1929. THF294662

On October 21, 1929, Henry Ford hosted an elaborate celebration in Dearborn, Mich., in honor of his friend Thomas A. Edison. Known as Light’s Golden Jubilee, the date marked the 50th anniversary of Edison’s invention of the electric light. Ford also planned his event as a dedication of his own lasting tribute to Thomas Edison and to American innovation, the Edison Institute of Technology (now known as Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation) and Greenfield Village. Here, Henry Ford had moved the Menlo Park, New Jersey, laboratory where the inventor made his discovery so many years before.

The RSVPs for Light's Golden Jubilee began pouring in to Ford Motor Company by early October 1929. Prominent businessmen like John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and J.P. Morgan, scientist Marie Curie, inventor Orville Wright, and humorist Will Rogers were among those who enthusiastically accepted Ford’s invitation to be part of the landmark event.

At 10 am that morning, President Herbert Hoover, Henry Ford and Thomas Edison arrived at Smiths Creek depot at Greenfield Village in a railroad car pulled by an 1858 steam-powered locomotive, reminiscent of Edison’s youth when he sold newspapers on Michigan’s Grand Trunk railroad line. Edison, Ford, and Hoover and their wives were met by invited guests that numbered more than 500. The crowd roared their approval and congratulations as Edison stepped from the train to begin the day’s festivities.

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Ford, Hoover and Edison arrive at the Smiths Creek, Michigan depot where a young Edison had been thrown off the train 67 years earlier when he accidentally started a fire in a baggage car. The station was one of several Edison-related buildings that Henry Ford moved to Greenfield Village. THF294682

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This painting of the Light’s Golden Jubilee banquet was begun in 1938 at the request of Henry Ford. Completed by artist Irving Bacon seven years later, the 17 x 7-foot painting hangs in the museum.  THF119552

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Edison and Jehl recreate the successful lighting of the first electric light in the restored Menlo Park Laboratory in Greenfield Village. President Hoover and Henry Ford look on. THF 118508

After the guests had been properly greeted and the throngs of media had gotten their quotes and photographs, Henry Ford gave Hoover a personal tour of the massive Ford Motor Company Rouge industrial complex, five miles away. Eighty-two-year-old Edison retired to Ford’s nearby Fair Lane estate to rest while the hundreds of guests gathered at the Clinton Inn (now known as Eagle Tavern) to enjoy lunch followed by afternoon horse-and-carriage tours of Greenfield Village.

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The morning of the celebration brought forth rain. Twenty-eight historic buildings had been assembled in Greenfield Village from around the United States. The muddy grounds made sightseeing around the outdoor museum challenging, but they didn’t dampen enthusiasm. To combat the rain and mud, Ford supplied enclosed horse-drawn carriages to transport guests on tours of Greenfield Village. THF124662

That evening, guests gathered at the museum—the front galleries of which had been hurriedly completed just in time for the celebration.  Fine crystal chandeliers, fitted with candles, cast a soft glow about the rooms. NBC Radio broadcaster Graham McNamee set the mood for the evening in a coast-to-coast live broadcast:

"Imagine the checkered effect of black and white evening dress, the brilliant splashes of color provided by the uniforms of military attaches and the great stylists of Paris and Fifth Avenue ...I have attended many celebrations, but I cannot recall even attempting to describe one staged in a more perfect setting."

After a sumptuous banquet, Edison, Ford, and Hoover went to the reconstructed Menlo Lab in Greenfield Village to re-create the lighting of the first electric lamp. There, Edison and Francis Jehl, his former assistant, both went to work—much like they had half a century earlier, preparing to forever change the world. As they worked, McNamee narrated to a hushed world: "Mr. Edison has two wires in his hand; now he is reaching up to the old lamp; now he is making the connection.… It lights! Light's Golden Jubilee has come to a triumphant climax."

As the connection was made in the Menlo Lab, the museum building was bathed in light and the museum’s replica of the Liberty Bell pealed for the first time. Overhead a plane flew by with the word “Edison” and the dates “79” and “29” illuminated under the wings. Car horns sounded, lights flashed on and off, and the world bathed itself in an electric light tribute to Edison.

Worldwide publicity of the Light’s Golden Jubilee event encouraged Americans from coast to coast—and people around the world—to participate in the celebration.  People huddled around their radios, plunged into near darkness, using only candles or gas lamps for light, waiting for Edison's successful re-creation as a cue to turn on their lights as part of the celebration. Small towns and large cities put on elaborate light displays.

After the reenactment, Ford, Hoover, Edison and Jehl returned to the museum to hear accolades from President Hoover, a radio address by Albert Einstein broadcast from Germany, and Edison’s heartfelt remarks. Henry Ford, not wishing to steal the spotlight from his friend, did not speak or allow photographs at the evening ceremony.

This event was just the beginning—Ford’s tribute to Edison and to American innovation and inventiveness was a lasting one. The artifacts and buildings Ford gathered for his indoor and outdoor museums, now known collectively as The Henry Ford, have told stories of American innovation, ingenuity, and resourcefulness for 90 years.  They will continue to inspire countless generations to come.

Terry Hoover is a Former Archivist at The Henry Ford.

Light's Golden Jubilee

Assistive technology refers to a wide range of products designed to help people work around a variety of challenges as they learn, work, and perform other daily living activities. Certain assistive devices allow people who are deaf or hard of hearing to access technologies that many take for granted, like telephones, televisions, and even alarm clocks. For a young woman in the 1970s and 80s, these products -- now in the collections of The Henry Ford -- also provided greater independence, broader access to popular culture, and improved communication with family and friends.

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Hal-Hen Products Vibrating Alarm Clock, circa 1975 (THF158135)

In September 1975, just before leaving home to begin college, a young woman named Shari acquired this inventive alarm clock. It included a bedside clock connected to a vibrating motor, which attached to the underside of the bed and shook intensely when the alarm was triggered. The eager freshman looked forward to waking independently, “rather than trying to rely on others who would have a different class schedule” -- so it’s easy to imagine her dismay when she arrived at her dormitory to find bunk beds! The alarm “would shake and rattle the whole bunk,” creating “quite a rude awakening” for her bunkmate. After a few nights, the students figured out how to separate their bunk beds into twin beds. Even though the new arrangement made the small dorm room even tighter, Shari (and, undoubtedly, her roommate) finally considered the alarm clock to have been “a definite advantage.”

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Brochure, "Real-Time Closed Captioning Brings Early-Evening News to the Hearing Impaired, circa 1981 (THF275615)

In December 1981, with money saved from her first job after college, Shari purchased a television caption adapter. At this time, a few programs, like the national news, were broadcast with closed captions for viewers who were deaf or hard of hearing. This text was visible only when activated, at first through separate decoding units.

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Television Caption Adapter, 1980-1981 (THF173767)

Shari remembered -- especially as more shows began to include closed captions in the 1980s -- that this decoder “opened up a whole new world of entertainment.” She associated closed captioning with independence -- as she didn’t “have to pester other family members to ‘tell me what they're saying’” -- and participation, recalling, “No longer did I resign myself to reading a book in an easy chair in the same room while the rest of the family watched exciting shows on TV!” The Television Decoder Circuitry Act of 1990 required televisions to have built-in caption display technology, decreasing the need for separate caption adapters and giving people access to on-screen captions almost anywhere they watched TV.

System 100 Text Telephone Unit, circa 1980 (THF173771)

In 1981, the same year she purchased her first TV caption adapter, Shari also acquired a teletypewriter, or text telephone, abbreviated TTY. This device connected to a standard telephone line, allowing communication via a keyboard and electronic text display. The technology was freeing -- Shari remembered that “it was wonderful to finally be able to independently make a few of my own phone calls” -- but also limited. At first, she could only communicate with someone else who had access to a TTY device. After she became a mother, Shari recalled loaning a TTY unit to a neighbor who also had small children, making it easier to “set up ‘play dates’ and just do the typical conversing young moms do.” In the late 1980s, some states implemented services to relay dialogue between TTY and non-TTY users. Eventually, spurred by state and federal legislation, relay systems improved nationwide, and TTY technology became more accessible and affordable.

In their time, these lifechanging devices represented the cutting edge of assistive technology. Ongoing research, technological adthf173770vances, and new design approaches in the decades that followed led to improved products and more choices for consumers. Today, many users have adopted digital technologies. Email, text or instant message, and real-time video services enable communication, and digital devices, often connected to smartphones, offer solutions that address a range of user needs.


Saige Jedele is Associate Curator, Digital Content, at The Henry Ford. Learn more about assistive technology on an upcoming episode of The Henry Ford’s Innovation Nation.

The Henry Ford's Innovation Nation

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This 1930 Hupmobile Model S was one of nearly 800 vehicles that filled Greenfield Village for this year’s Old Car Festival.

Another summer car show season is in the books as we wrap up our 69th annual Old Car Festival in Greenfield Village. We enjoyed practically perfect weather, enthusiastic crowds, and a field of nearly 800 vintage automobiles, trucks, motorcycles, and bicycles. You couldn’t have asked for a better weekend – or a better way to spend it.

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This 1925 Ford Model TT truck fit perfectly with the Depression-era Mattox Family Home. Greenfield Village provides an incomparable setting for Old Car Festival.

Our spotlight for 2019 shined on early sports cars, whether genuine performers like the Stutz Bearcat, or mere sporty-looking cars like Ford’s Model T Torpedo Runabout. We usually associate sports cars with postwar imported MGs or all-American Corvettes, but enthusiast motoring is an old idea. For as long as there have been cars, there have been builders and buyers dedicated to the simple idea that driving should be fun.

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The Henry Ford’s 1923 Stutz Bearcat. Many consider the Bearcat to be America’s first true sports car.

In keeping with the theme, we featured three sporty cars in our special exhibit tent across from Town Hall. From The Henry Ford’s own collection, we pulled our 1923 Stutz Bearcat. If there’s one name synonymous with early sporting automobiles, it’s “Bearcat.” Indianapolis-based Stutz introduced the model in 1912. The first-generation Bearcat featured only the barest bodywork and a trademark “monocle” windshield. Our later model was a bit more refined but, with 109 horses under the hood, it had no problems pushing the speedometer needle to the century mark. And, with its $3500 price tag, it had no problems pushing your bankbook into the red, either.

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The sporty, affordable 1926 Chevrolet – for when the heart says, “speed up” but the wallet says, “slow down.”

Our good friends at General Motors once again shared a treasure from the company’s collection. This time it was a beautiful 1926 Chevrolet Superior Series V. The car boasted custom bodywork from the Mercury Body Company of Louisville, Kentucky. The speedster body and disc wheels gave a sporty look to a car targeted at budget-minded buyers. The Chevy sold for $510 – about one-seventh the cost of that Stutz!

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This newly-restored 1927 Packard ambulance served the city of Detroit for nearly 30 years.

Every car at Old Car Festival has its own story, but some of them are particularly special. You could certainly say that about the 1927 Packard ambulance bought to us by owner Brantley Vitek of Virginia. He purchased the vehicle, in rather rough condition, at the Hershey swap meet in 1974. Dr. Vitek planned to restore it but, as is sometimes the case for car collectors, life got in the way. He wasn’t able to start the project until 2016, but it was well worth the wait. The finished ambulance is gorgeous – and not without southeast Michigan ties. The Packard served all its working life with the Detroit Fire Department. Old Car Festival wasn’t just a debut for the completed project, it was a homecoming as well.

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The corn boil was just one of the dietary delights offered at this year’s show.

Veteran Old Car Festival attendees know that the show mixes a little gastronomy with its gasoline. Each year brings historically-inspired foods to the special “Market District” set up along the south end of Greenfield Village’s Washington Boulevard. Offerings for 2019 included turkey legs, sliced pastrami sandwiches, baked beans and cornbread (served in a tin cup), and peach cobbler. Longstanding favorites like kettle corn, hobo bread, and frozen custard were on hand too.

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Prize winners received glass medallions handcrafted in the Greenfield Village Glass Shop.

As it does every year, Old Car Festival wrapped up with the Sunday afternoon awards ceremony. Show participants are invited to submit their vehicles for judging. Expert judges award prizes based on authenticity, quality of restoration, and the care with which each vehicle is maintained. First, second, and third-place prizes are awarded in eight classes, and one Grand Champion is selected for each of the show’s two days. Additionally, two Curator’s Choice awards are given to significant unrestored Vehicles.

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The Canadian Model T Assembly Team entertained by putting together this vintage Ford in mere minutes.

Year after year, Old Car Festival provides sights, sounds, and tastes to delight the senses. It’s no wonder the show has been going strong for 69 years. We’ll see you for show number 70 in 2020!

Matt Anderson is Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford.

Old Car Festival

First Mustang Salesman

September 27, 2019
thf906181965 Ford Mustang Convertible, Serial Number One. THF90618 

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Ford Mustang Serial Number 1 and Original Owner Captain Stanley Tucker, 1966. THF98053 

More than 55 years ago, Harry Phillips sold Mustang Serial No. 1 to Stanley Tucker in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada.

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Harry Phillips and Mustang Serial No. 1, September 2019.

Thanks to a campaign spurred on by fellow Ford Mustang lovers, Mr. Phillips was reunited with that same car, in Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation, on Sept. 27, 2019. Hear his story of that landmark sale in 1964, and learn more about this important artifact: Stanley Tucker and Ford Mustang Serial Number One.


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Lee and Kendra in partnership with their signed Memoranda of Understanding.

The Henry Ford recently celebrated the one-year anniversary of its acquisition of The STEMIE Coalition, an alliance of youth invention, innovation, and entrepreneurship programs committed to teaching K-12 students the innovative mindset. The program has seen considerable success and continues to rapidly expand globally under a new brand, Invention Convention Worldwide. This week, The Henry Ford welcomed its affiliated program leadership from as far away as Singapore and Ukraine and from across the U.S. to collaborate and share best practices to advance youth invention education worldwide.

New to the community, and representing all K-12 students across the Republic of Korea, is the Korea Invention Promotion Association (KIPA), a relative analog to our U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) government agency’s educational and outreach activities. KIPA was established in 1994 to promote intellectual property rights – patents, trademarks, copyrights, and more – and expand patent management support for companies across South Korea.

Today, KIPA is overseeing an audacious goal -- to train all students in Korea in the process of invention. The Republic of Korea is the first country in the world to legislate that all students in grades 4-12 receive annual training in the invention process. KIPA has created a wealth of content to support teachers across Korea, including classroom materials, training for teachers, and national events designed to excite, guide, and celebrate young inventors.

The Henry Ford shares this mission – that within every child exists the potential to change the world. Under The Innovation Project and the Invention Convention Worldwide initiative, The Henry Ford is seeking to convene and collaborate with the world’s leading changemakers around invention education, and work to develop an innovative mindset in students everywhere.

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Lee and Kendra enjoy an authentic Model-T ride through The Henry Ford’s Greenfield Village.

KIPA and The Henry Ford Invention Convention Worldwide will collaborate to expand invention education across Korea, the U.S., and worldwide, working with the World IP Organization (WIPO). KIPA and The Henry Ford will take advantage of The Henry Ford’s extensive collection of stories and artifacts across 300 years of American Innovation – not to mention its curated lesson plans, teacher training, and digital media. They will similarly leverage KIPA’s own deep educator written, audio, video, and software content and tools in invention learning. Together, KIPA and The Henry Ford will build new and expanded pathways for young inventors, innovators, and entrepreneurs to build life-long skills and innovative mindsets.

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Carol Kendra, Vice President of The Henry Ford, welcomed Du Seong Lee, Vice President of KIPA, along with Jimmy Han, Director and Danny Yoo, Section Manager, to The Henry Ford for a formal signing ceremony of the new partnership. Set against the backdrop of the world’s first research and development laboratory, the original renowned Menlo Labs of Thomas Edison, Lee and Kendra exchanged signatures, memoranda of understanding, and gifts to celebrate the occasion. The signing was held on the second floor of Edison’s lab where Edison first successfully created his first working light bulb, lighting up the world.

Lee and his staff joined American school children in a viewing a demonstration of one of the original first 200 working phonograph devices.  As Global Director of the Invention Convention Worldwide program, I presented Lee with an actual recording from the historic phonograph.

The Henry Ford and KIPA will begin collaborations and planning starting in October in Korea on joint efforts.  The Henry Ford’s President and CEO Patricia Mooradian received the Korean delegation in her offices and invited KIPA to discuss how we might include young Korean inventors at our Invention Convention showcases and competitions globally, and to work together to cultivate each child’s skill sets to create solutions to our world’s most pressing problems. Among the potential areas for collaboration include application of The Henry Ford’s digital assets, including clips from its award-winning Innovation Nation and Did I mention Invention? television shows and digital artifact cards from its 26 million piece collection, to KIPAs extensive content for educators, and creating new artificial reality and gaming approaches to invention education.

The Henry Ford’s Invention Convention Worldwide initiative is part of its Innovation Learning suite of learning resources, and today impacts more than 120,000 students across its affiliated network of partners.

Danny Briere is Chief Entrepreneur Officer and Global Director, Invention Convention Worldwide, at The Henry Ford.

The Henry Ford was recently recognized by WXYZ as one of the most Instagrammable spots in metro Detroit. If you’re always striving for that perfect Instagram post, here are a few tips and tricks I’ve learned in the Photography Studio at the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation.

First, composition is key. Make sure to take a look around you as you compose your shot—what do you want to include? Sometimes an interesting angle, or an object in the foreground, can change your picture drastically. Make sure to walk around a bit before you snap your shot, or take multiples, and see which one you like best.

Take, for instance, this image I took of the water tower.  By keeping it in the background, and other things in the foreground, it changes the photo to a view you might not see right away.

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Similarly, going for a different angle can make for an interesting photo, especially when it’s something like Thomas Edison’s Menlo Park lab. Most people see its profile while walking by, and don’t look back when they’re exiting, but just seeing it from another perspective makes it look like an entirely different building.

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Another thing to keep in mind is lighting, especially if you’re outside in Greenfield Village. On a sunny day, you want to make sure the sun is at your back, and if you’re taking photos of people, make sure it’s not in their eyes. On a gloomy day, always make sure to play around with the saturation and brightness/contrast before you post your picture. These little things can go a long way and can turn the grayest of photos a bit more vibrant!

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An overcast day at the Roundhouse can still have a pop of color.

For larger subjects, it comes back to angles. If you’re having a hard time fitting everything in the frame, take a couple steps back, or turn your focus to the details. Sometimes the most interesting photos come from looking at something a little more closely.

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And finally, lighting and exposure are important things to take into account when you’re going for the perfect shot. Though cell phones don’t allow as much control over exposure as cameras do, there’s still a lot that can be done. Take, for instance, these photos of the McDonald’s sign over by Lamy’s. By adjusting the exposure, we get a much more dynamic photo.

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Hopefully some of these tips will help you out the next time you’re wandering about the museum or village. What’s your favorite place to take photos here at The Henry Ford? Show us! Use #THFPhoto and show off your work.

Jillian Ferraiuolo is Digital Imaging Specialist at The Henry Ford.